Transcription Services


I just want to mention a few hidden costs/needs/items that you may need when offering transcription as a service for clients:

  • Transcription –You need to think about the services you are offering clients with regards to your business needs. With transcription you will receive large files from clients and they may have to be downloaded, therefore if you have a capped bundle and use up your bundle before months end you will need to top up your bundle and this will cost you. So it might be more worth your while to get uncapped ADSL or Fibre. Large files can take up to an hour or more to upload and download, this is worth thinking about. Transcription Image
  • Transcription is very time consuming, you must listen and concentrate, this is taking up time, you need to make sure you are paid for the time this is taking you, Costs for transcription can be dependent on different scenarios: more than one person speaking, additional background noise, language and race, bad recording, type of meeting, focus group, one on one meeting, etc, all these things and more can affect the time it takes to transcribe the file. Ask your client if you can listen to the files first to give you a better idea of what you are quoting on, listen to a few spots within the file to get a feel of what you will be involved in doing with the file. Do not quote blind.
  • With transcription you must proofread your work afterwards, (you must proof every task you do, this should automatically be part of your job but many people don’t proofread their work and just send it out), you need to proof for spelling, grammar, understanding, sentence construction etc. Make sure that you allow time for this and that you let the client know that you must do this at the end of your transcription, it is not a case of just transcribing the file and then sending it back to the client. Do not do a rush job on your proofing, take the time to proof it properly and let the client know that this is part of the task that you are doing for them, they don’t know this, they have no idea what is involved, all they want is their file transcribed into a document. On your quotation or in your terms and conditions, make sure that proofreading is included as one of the steps to transcribing files; the client needs to know what they are paying you for.
  • Before starting out offering transcription, make sure that you have the set up to offer this service, headphones, the right software (express scribe, file conversion software etc) foot pedal if needed, a good dictionary, internet access for research on names, places, etc.Transcription Collage Image
  • Download express scribe to assist you with transcribing your files (free)
  • Know how long it will take you to transcribe the following, it makes it easier when quoting for clients as they need to know how long it takes:
    One on One meeting
    Meetings with a few people
    Focus groups with cross talking across the room
    Court Hearing using translator etc
    Different types of transcription can take different lengths of time to complete, a focus group, 1 hour file may take up to 6 hours to transcribe, one person dictating their own letters (1 hour file) could take 2 or 3 hours to transcribe.
  • Typing and Transcription are both different, each have their own skill sets. They are priced different, transcription is not charged per page, it is charge per hour or per audio hour, never on a page rate, it is up to you as a Transcriptionist to educate the client on this fact. If you don’t you will be grossly underpaid for providing a Transcription service, and it want be worth it for you

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This is a great skill to offer clients but make sure you have the experience within the skill to offer it. Transcription is a skill on its own, it needs great listening skills and the ability to sit for hours concentrating, excellent grammar skills.


Transcription Rates:

There is no standard Transcription rate, from researching this I have found everyone charges what they need to earn and everyone’s situation is different.



You either work on your hourly rate or you work on an audio hourly rate.

What is an audio hour in transcription?

If you are being paid $50 per audio hour, this means you will earn $50 for every hour of audio you transcribe. This could take from two to five hours to transcribe just one hour of audio, depending on the difficulty of the file and your transcription skills.

How long does it take to transcribe one hour of audio?

The professional industry standard is ONE hour to transcribe 15 minutes of clearly recorded speech. It takes a MINIMUM of 4 hours to transcribe a one hour audio recording and can take as much as 6 or 8 hours depending on the quality of the recording.


Tips from Gaynor:

  • Make sure that your grammar is correct and you get things like their and they’re right, ask the client to send you a sample before you commit to a deadline.
  • If you get the opportunity give the client recording tips to produce a good quality recording which impacts on the quality of the transcript in the end.

Gaynor Paynter, Follow me on Twitter @TypewriteSA, Email:

Typewrite Transcription and Typing Services

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By Michele Johanson

I suggest that you join a forum aimed at VAs and transcriptionists.  For South Africans I would recommend TAVASA.  Working from home can be a lonely experience and trying to sort out technical problems can be very daunting.  By joining a forum you will be in contact with people who understand exactly what is required and can assist with questions. 

Best of all, this is where the more established people post their requests for assistance with overflow work.  Having secured a shot at subcontracting this overflow work bear the following in mind:

  • Obtain a template from the contractor and STICK to it – every comma, every underlining, every space. Do not get creative and do not try to improve on the template.
  • Often the contractor will send a sheet through with his or her typing preferences and requirements. Read it carefully before you start typing and again before you proof your work and ensure you abide by the instructions.
  • Communicate – if you are having problems with the recording it may be a bad recording. On the other hand, if you are the only typist experiencing problems then it is probably an incorrect setting or your equipment may be faulty.  The only way to find out is by asking the contractor about the recording quality.   Do not go merrily ahead and turn in a transcript littered with [unclear], [inaudible], etcetera.
  • Make notes as you go, especially for names and words that you are not sure of. Should these become clear as the transcript progresses, it makes it easy and quick to do a global replacement.
  • Proof your work thoroughly. Put those earphones on and go through the whole transcript – this is time-consuming and quite often expensive – it takes a long time to type your very first transcription and it can be quite discouraging in terms of your hourly rate, but you would be amazed at what you pick up on the second run-through.  Words previously indecipherable will be clear once you are familiar with the context of the transcript.
  • Spell and grammar check – spell checking is an absolute requirement but adding the grammar check function is very useful in picking up mistakes other than typos. Bear in mind that transcription is usually rendered verbatim and the most common grammar mistakes are made in speech.  Do not be tempted to tidy up the speaker’s grammar unless specifically requested to do so.
  • Google is your friend. If, for instance, you pick up a name and a designation but not the company name, chances are you will find it on Google.  Many terms are industry-related or, in the case of medical transcription, the names of patent drugs, etcetera, are unfamiliar to most people.  It is not enough to spell a word phonetically, add a question mark and move on.  In the long run your efforts will be rewarded.
  • Ask questions. We were all new at this once and I believe we would rather answer a dozen seemingly insignificant questions rather than receive a badly-typed transcript.

The above steps are very, very important.  It is as well to remember that not only do contractors offer the jobs that will get you started as a transcriptionist but that they often recommend – or not – typists to other contractors.  Shoddy work will put a halt to your career before you start.  Commit to producing high quality transcription from day one.

Michele Johanson is based in Cape Town and owns Good Hope Transcription and Typing Services which offers general and legal transcription, typing, article and content writing  and editing/proofreading  functions. Recently we have added recording of small meetings to our profile.


I asked two questions see below on the Tavasa forum and these are the replies to those questions. This is very useful information when starting out your business and when you set your prices/rates.

Transcription, Typing rates/prices (South Africa)

The prices used are not real rates they are just examples to explain the questions.


  • When you get in a transcription job of say 5 minutes of audio file, how do you price it?
  • If you get in a typing job of say 5 pages, how would you price it?

Answers from various members of Tavasa, thank you everyone.

  • Interesting question. I would normally work out the per hour rate first – per audio hour that is. The normal transcriptionist will take about 4 hours to do one hour of audio so you have to work out how much you want to earn per hour. For instance, if you want to be paid R75 per hour, you would then x it by 4 to get the audio hour rate. So that would be R300 per audio hour. To get the minute rate divide it by 60. So that is R300 /60 minutes = R5 per audio minute. For 5 minutes of audio it would therefore be 5 audio minutes x R5 which = R25.
  • For pricing a normal page of typing, double spaced – say you want to earn R75 per hour for typing, the average typist would be able to type 2.5 pages in 15 minutes so in an hour you can do 10 pages. Take R75 per hour divide by 10 pages = R7.50 per page.
    Of course you need to increase the tariff if you want to earn more. That’s just my calculation :).
  • 4 – 5 hours is the average estimate for clear recordings. You also need to take into account that the recording might be bad and you will spend longer on it. And then if you proof it, you will listen to it all the way through and possibly change words, fill in unclear areas and so on. If you also cost in not just what your time is worth but all your equipment etc., etc., R300/audio-video hour is not very much, and translated down to what Joan has worked it out at – is it really worth your while earning R25? Can you pay your rent/bond, your car, your food, your electricity/water/rates etc., on that? That is your bottom line. Can you live on what you are charging? Ask yourself this. If you went for a job what salary and benefits would you be needing to get in order for it to be worth you taking the job? Forget your husband’s salary [if you have a hubby/lover/partner], you are looking at yourself here. Is it worth you working for less than your maid is paid?
  • I always quote per minute and I also always change the transcribing time from hours to minutes, for e.g. 2 hour 37 minutes = 157 minutes; so that my charges are always very clear and simple. In this instance I quoted more per minute because video transcribing takes longer. I have 4 sentences at the bottom of each quote that describes the different types of transcriptions and I always highlight the relevant transcription per quote.
  • This is precisely how I work out transcription rates. I had an interesting query the other day where the person wanted to know specifically the per page rate for a transcription instead of a per audio hour rate.
    So I took an old transcription I had done, looked at the total amount of pages typed, and the length of audio and worked out approximately how many pages a transcription of a certain time would be and worked out my page rate based on that. It was close to the amount per page that I usually charge for typing.
  • So to answer Ali’s question, for a typing job of five pages I quote as follows:
    R?? per typed page x 25 = total (and 50 per cent is paid upfront)
    For 5 minutes of audio, I divide my standard per audio hour rate by 60 and multiply by five. So the client is not charged ‘per hour or part thereof’, but for individual minutes.
    I usually give my quotation on a per minute basis. I can then multiply x 60 if the audio is longer than one hour.
  • I work out my rates has been very fluid so far, depending on the client. I have a minimum and maximum rate I will take and I have a cut-off point where I will walk away from the deal of pass the lead to someone else that might be willing to accept the potential client’s counter-offer.

The pricing I offer can be:

  1. a) A flat rate for a work batch (say 6 interviews, each ranging from 15 -45 minutes). This is usually reserved for NGOs, who I give a break as part of my corporate social responsibility.
  2. b) My maximum rate for medium and big enterprises
  3. c) My standard rate based on what I hear people charge on TAVASA.

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